Radio SMCQ: Isabelle Panneton

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Sherbrooke, Québec, 1955

  • Composer

The legacy of harmony, passed down to her by Gilles Tremblay and Philippe Boesmans, is here allied to her taste for supple melody that sidesteps traditional thematic norms. On describing her processes, the composer speaks metaphorically, of a harmonic elaboration in the form of spider webs. Common pitches link harmonic regions, a sort of bridge that brings together different planes of the sonic landscape. This is a music endowed with a vibrant sensibility, and evocative gestures wrought from an abstract lyricism.

Born in 1955 in Sherbrooke, Isabelle Panneton began her musical training taking piano lessons with Irène Ducharme. After three years of scientific studies, she transferred to the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, where she earned Premier Prix in counterpoint (1977), harmony (1979) and fugue (1980), in Magdeleine Martin’s classes, as well as in analysis (1981) and composition (1984) with Gilles Tremblay. She also studied orchestration, electroacoustic music and conducting.

With the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Quebec government, she spent three years in Belgium between 1984 and 1987, where she devoted her time to composition under the supervision of Philippe Boesmans. Through composition seminars held at IRCAM during the first six months of 1986, she was also able to gain deeper insight into the thoughts and works of composers Tristan Murail, Wolfgang Rihm, Michael Levinas and Marco Stroppa. In June 1994, with the help of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, she attended the “Technology and Composition” seminars given by composers Jean-Claude Risset and Michaell Jarrell at IRCAM’s Summer Academy.

Panneton counts to her credit, more than twenty works which have been performed in Quebec as well as abroad, notably in Paris, Vienna, Geneva, London and Brussels, the latter on the occasion of the 1985 Festival de Wallonie. That same year, she was awarded a prize in the chamber music category of a national contest organized by the Société des Droits d’Exécution, and her work Voilage was chosen to represent Canada at Unesco’s International Tribune of Composers. In the past decade, her works have been performed by musicians such as Lise Daoust, Louise Bessette, Julie-Anne Derome and Marc Courroux, as well as by the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Orchestre Métropolitain and The Continuum Ensemble of London.

A former professor in the Department of Music at Concordia University (1987-95), Panneton currently divides her time between composition and teaching at the Faculté de musique de l’Université de Montréal where she was named associate-professor in1995. Recent works include a commission from the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, premiered in April 2001, and a children’s opera based on an unpublished work of Anne Hébert, performed by le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and the company “Les coups de Théâtre” in the fall of 2002.

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